Men's cross country looks forward to MIAC Championships

By Mark Thomson

The cross country team is more balanced than ever. Competition for the number one spot, left vacant by Wade Eckstrom ’10, has led to improvement across the board.

“Everybody feeds off the competition with one another, since it’s more open,” captain Dale Dybvig ’13 said.

In four races thus far this year, the team has seen three different runners (Carl Biggers ’12, Ollie St. John ’12, and Jon Basson ’11) be the top finisher. “We have a lot of guys in the same time range,” Ryan Sutley ’13 said.

The fact that there is no top runner has proven beneficial for team success. “When there’s competition, it makes everybody better. You don’t know who’s going to be number one guy on any given day,” Sutley said.

Because there hasn’t been a definitive number one runner, there have been opportunities for many people to assume leadership positions. “Every guy on the team leads more than at the start of the season. We’ve seen the first years have more of a voice. There’s not much of a difference between first years and seniors. We’ve seen leaders develop,” head coach Matt Haugen said.

The team has also had to overcome some adversity, with a few runners watching the races from the sidelines. “We’re not at full strength right now, but we’ll be there by the end of the season,” Haugen said. “We’ve had a couple of hamstring injuries, and guys are a little sick.”

Despite these setbacks, the team is confident about the rest of the season. “We’re seeing some promising things. I’m encouraged because I practice with these guys every day, and they’re improving,” Dybvig said.

Many runners have posted personal bests in the last few weeks, but Haugen anticipates even more potential in the team for the rest of the season.

“I see the team climbing the ladder and a lot happening in the next five weeks,” he said. “People are learning how to be the number one runner.”

All of this progress and maturation is leading up the MIAC Championships Oct. 30th at Como Park in St. Paul. Haugen believes the team will be ready by then.

“No other team races every week like we do. We’re definitely going to feel better by October when we race every other week,” he said.

Dybvig is similarly optimistic about the team’s chances. “I expect a lot of guys to run faster as the season goes on when they get their legs back and the weather gets cooler,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that are improving, so we’re just trying to get everybody to peak in October.”

Haugen has been preparing the team for the biggest meet of the year. “We’re working on stamina, closing on the last mile, pacing at the desired MIAC pace, being mentally efficient, and learning which teammates to stick to,” he said. “I’m trying to shape them mentally for the MIAC Championships.”

There’s an opportunity to place well at the MIAC Championships. “We view the conference as having more open real estate because it’s not as strong as last year. Teams are vulnerable,” Haugen said.

For Dybvig, it’s simple. “Guys just need to believe.